UNIONS: Long record on equality

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So, we now have an attack on the trades unions, and Unite in particular, regarding our record on fighting for women’s rights in this country, (News Post Leader, September 6).

Someone thought it a good idea to write in asking the question, where were the unions when these issues about sanitary products and period poverty first became an issue?

As a trade union shop steward and full-time negotiator for well over 45 years, I will answer that by taking the writer and your readers on a very short, but factual trip around trade unions fighting for the female members.

We negotiated agreements with employers on paid release to attend cervical screening and breast screening during the working day.

We negotiated with large employers to allow screening trucks to come and set up in workplace car parks to save women from having to travel distances.

We managed to pressure governments to introduce the Equal Pay Act, Work of Equal Value Act and job evaluation without sexual bias, etc.

We were supporting women in the fight to get equal pay in workplaces at a time when we had employers and Tory governments hostile to equality. They used disgraceful tactics as part of legislation and even used police in attempting to undermine women fighting for justice.

Try reading some history around the TRICO and Ford Dagenham disputes on equality issues and this will assist the writer with the issues at hand.

With half of union membership being female, they would not allow the union to act any differently.

That is why I will never sit back and take lessons on morality or criticism around our equality pursuits from anyone who tries to diminish the role of trades unions.

Rab Stewart

Blyth